Whisper Creek's diversity will test anyone ... especially the walkers
I'm a big believer in golf courses making the game more affordable for juniors.
Invest in youth today and reap the benefits of the soon-to-be addict down the road.
That's exactly what happened to me while living in Stamford, Connecticut, with Sterling Farms charging $2 for 18 holes for kids 17 and younger.
So mad props to Whisper Creek in Huntley, which allows up to three kids 15 and younger to play for free with a paying adult after 1 p.m. on weekdays and 3 p.m. on weekends and holidays. The course is also part of Youth on Course, whose members can walk for $5 after noon on weekdays. In both cases, walk-ups only; no reservations made in advance.
"It's taken advantage of quite often," said general manager Dominic Flood. "It's a popular program, especially late in the evening when guys get off work and they can run out and play a few holes with their kids. It's good for the future of the game to get the kids out here for a low cost."
This policy -- which I was unaware of when deciding to feature Whisper Creek -- only increases how impressive the value is for this well-maintained course. The variety of holes and ability to play it from as long as 7,103 yards makes it a test for all levels of golfers, but you can definitely score out here once you learn the nuances of a few holes.
Normally I'd take you around the course from beginning to end, but we've got to start with the par 5s when discussing Whisper Creek because three of them are among the toughest I've played.
• The 8th hole (616 yards from the tips, 560 from pines, 529 from birches) is a true mind bender. As you stand on the tee you'll see a creek that runs down the right side of the fairway and continues the entire length of the hole.
Mid-handicappers should resist the urge to get greedy on the second shot, which must now fly this creek to the fairway on the other side. Hit your favorite club at or to the right of the 150-yard marker and now par is possible.
Overthink it and disaster will strike.
• The 15th isn't long, but realize water is only 200 yards from the birch tees and 230 from the pines. Driver isn't the play for most golfers. The green is guarded by a massive bunker in front and another to the left. And water to the right. Getting your second shot inside 135 yards is paramount.
• No. 18 is a blast and offers all kinds of risk-reward options for the longball hitter. It's only 469 from the whites, 509 from the pines and 527 from the oaks, so getting on in 2 is definitely possible.
For us mere mortals it presents another nerve-wracking second shot over water. Just like No. 8, take your favorite club and keep it slightly right of the 150-yard marker.
"As long as you don't get scared about having to carry that water, it's a pretty easy golf hole," Flood said. "But that's where the nerves come in for a lot of guys."
To illustrate how difficult these holes can be, my 6-handicap son went 5 over on them en route to a 5-over 77. He tripled No. 8, losing his drive to the right and fourth shot left of the green.
"It's a solid test of golf," Flood said of the 8th. "I will not say it's one of my favorite holes. It was definitely the last hole I ever birdied out here. ... That second shot is so tough."
The par 3s at Whisper Creek offer great variety and an opportunity to score as they only play 133, 167, 112 and 135 from the middle (birch) tees. The 17th is the most memorable as you have a downhill shot to a multi-terraced green that slopes right to left. Flood says it's yielded quite a few holes-in-ones, including the only one he's ever carded.
The toughest par 4s are definitely Nos. 4 and 16, with trouble lurking on both sides of the fairway in both cases.
Make sure to favor the right side of the fairway on No. 4 or you'll have no angle on an approach that must carry a creek.
"It's just a very solid golf hole," Flood said. "Keep the left side out of play and then aim for the fat of the green. Bogey's an OK score for most people. ... A lot of guys will lay up just short of the water, pitch on and take the big number out of play."
The 16th green is one of the most difficult on the course, so pay close attention to pin position. If it's up front, you do not want to be long.
I'd love to see a hybrid set of tees between the pines (6,623 yards) and birches (6,155) that creates a 6,400-yard course. The more options the better.
Due to the length between holes, it takes up to 8 miles to walk Whisper Creek. Most courses are about 5. It gets 3.75 stars for value (5 for juniors when deals are applicable), 4 for course conditions, 4.5 for accessibility for our readership area and 1.5 for walkability. Value goes up to 4 or 4.5 if you can save $5 to $10 with online deals.
Whisper CreekWhisper Creek
History: Founded in 2000 in Huntley
Yards: 7,103 from oak tees; 6,623 from pines; 6,155 from birch; 5,550 from willows; 4,913 from maples
Weekday rates (with cart): $49 open-2 p.m.; $39 after 2 p.m.
Weekend rates (with cart): $69 open-11 a.m.; $62 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; $44 from after 2 p.m.
Notes: $16 less to walk; online specials will normally save $5-$10
Juniors: Up to 3 kids (15 and younger) play free with a paying adult (after 1 p.m. Monday-Thursday; after 3 p.m. weekends and holidays).
Youth on Course members play for $5 after noon weekdays
Note: Both deals only available to walk-ups; no reservations taken
Approximate distance from:
Arlington Heights: 30 miles
Hoffman Estates and Barrington: 20-25 miles
Elgin: 15 miles
Buffalo Grove, Wheaton, Aurora and Mundelein: 35 miles
Naperville: 40-55 miles